Interview questions by Lulibo Makoboka
MyCityByNight: If you were to describe what or who Diamond Thug is to someone who hasn’t heard of the band, how would you go about describing the band?
Four individuals banded together on a musical voyage across space and time.
We’re a Space-Rock / Dream-Pop act from Cape Town, South Africa that believes music should be felt as much as it should be heard.
MCBN: So as I was scrolling through your YouTube I noticed that you have a track titled “Kommetjie”. The town clearly has a special place in your hearts, in which way has it affected the growth of the group and the music that is created?
Chantel: I have lived in Kommetjie on and off for the past few years and have been an observer of its beauty and movements. Anywhere you may live lends itself to your creativity. Being able to stare into the skies with very few street lights and be surrounded by the sounds and smells of the ocean, mountains and with the constant twirl of the lighthouse in the distance, gives one a special sense of calmness. The song “Kommetjie” specifically was during a time where we had many a band practice out there, it was actually written on a beach out there.
MCBN: Danilo mentioned at the gig in Observatory that you guys started off with more of a Hip Hop sound, how did that all change to the style you have now?
Chantel: Haha, yeah we did. Looking back is always a fun thing to do, we have changed so drastically in our live performance, our music and our members. Danilo and I started the band with intentions of making electronic rap music. It was just a laptop sometimes him playing live instruments and just me on the mic. Then by rather serendipitous happenings, we had Adrian and Ted join the band over the years. It’s sort of felt right as a four-piece, it’s led to the sound we’ve got going now and we’re really into it.
MCBN: Deep of the Night with Goldfish literally exploded on the internet and on the radio, how did the feature come about and what was one of the key lessons you learned whilst working with Goldfish?
Chantel: I think being able to collaborate is always an exciting, but also daunting experience, you learn to write and sing and create outside of your comfort zone, it’s not easy to put yourself out there, especially in front of musicians as talented as Dave and Dom. However, at the same time it’s wonderful to be able to bring an aspect of yourself and your craft to someone else’s art and develop a result that you’d never have come up with alone.
The feature came about pretty serendipitously too, Dom was driving home from a late night surf and heard a spot-play of ‘Long Way’ on 5fm. Next thing we got a message from them asking if we wanted to come hang out in their studio and see what’s up. From there it became the lead single off of the album and hit multi-platinum status. We always knew that working with them would bring success, but I don’t think we quite imagined as much success on the single as it has received.
MCBN: Who are you making music for? Does Diamond Thug have an ideal target market?
As selfish as it sounds we are writing for ourselves because we love to write, we love to create, and we love to lose ourselves in the sounds that we find. It’s way to hone in on things and express everything that’s going on within and without us. But of course, the beauty of art is that by sharing our experiences, we can connect to other people and say: “Hey there, I feel these things too, you’re not alone, there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling this way or asking these questions”. Life is real, there is a vulnerability and power in sharing your reality too. We don’t set target markets, we just share experiences the best way we know how. We’ve played shows in Soweto and we’ve played shows in the Free State, we’ve connected with people across the country and it sort of reinforces the idea that target markets are imaginary lines drawn by marketing companies, people are people and when you show people you respect them, that you’re a person too, you can gain a connection no matter how different your experiences are.
MCBN: So far where has been your favourite venue to perform and why there?
Probably last weekend at Lush Festival. Everything went perfectly and the settings amidst the mountains really gave us a beautiful energy and excitement. We also love playing intimate venues, where we can connect with people on a real personal level.
MCBN: The SXSW festival must’ve been such an experience for the band, especially since it was a childhood dream come true for some of you. If, well… When the band gets booked for bigger gigs across Europe/North America, in which way do you think Diamond Thug would stand out from the other international acts?
We guess that purely having been born in South Africa we see things differently to bands and audiences in other parts of the world, not by choice but by what we’ve experienced growing up. I’m sure you could say that for every act travelling somewhere foreign. Though our music doesn’t sound like traditional African music we like to think there are elements that leak through, purely because of our background. Music is a language too and by getting overseas we’re able to bridge the gaps that have been enforced over time. It may be subtle, but it comes through. We also think that the best way you can stand out from other bands is to be genuine and honest in expressing ourselves. We’re unique, you’re unique, and if we talk honestly, we’ll all see that.
MCBN: Is there a specific song that electrifies the crowd when you perform, and if so what do you think it is that makes people feel that that specific way?
“Illusions” off of “Apastron”, our debut album that just released last Friday, has become a very powerful song to us live and it is generally received as a strong song for the crowd too. It’s a bit louder than the rest of our songs, we have big builds and quirky sounds, like Adrian starting the guitar loop with by hammering a coin on his guitar. There are also big shouting choruses with strong bass and crashing drums. It’s as if this song brings the feeling of ‘breaking free from’ something, anything.
MCBN: Is there a specific theme in the new album and what are some of the differences compared to previous projects?
Chantel: This is a body of work that lies very close to all of our hearts. It’s the collision of our personal journeys with our collective experience. We see it has a cosmic expedition essentially. It holds a strong theme summed up best by its name being “Apastron”, which is the farthest point between two celestial objects orbiting one another. I think the word has strength enough to give the listener understanding of the album. In terms of the sounds on the album, it’s the first big body of work we’ve released that shows the world our sound the way we want it to be heard. We’ve spent a long time on this album and worked with some incredible people to get it to sound the way it does and if nothing else, we are proud of what we’ve created.
MCBN: Where do you see Diamond Thug a year from now?
We hope to be able to make music into our livelihood. I can’t answer you in one line or with a specific place or thing we want to be doing. We’d like to be touring internationally as regularly as possible. We’d like to have a lot more music out, and we’d like to continue this journey of expression together. As for the rest, we’ll just follow the path offered to us by the cosmos.
MCBN: Dead or Alive… Which artist/band would you have the pleasure of opening for if you had the chance?
As a band, our strongest two influencers are Radiohead and Tame Impala, opening for either of them would be mind-blowing.